Melissa Berry, Diagnosed at 42
Breast cancer ran in Melissa Berry's family. "When I was 32 years old, my mother urged me to take the BRCA test," said Melissa, who's the founder of Cancer Fashionista, a site dedicated to help women look and feel their best throughout their breast cancer journey and beyond. "I tested positive for BRCA1, so I was closely monitored from that point on."
When Melissa was 42, a nurse found a small lump during a clinical exam; after an ultrasound and biopsy, she was diagnosed with stage 1 triple-negative breast cancer. "My first reaction was that this couldn't be real. It must be a bad dream or a mistake. You hear about breast cancer all the time, but you never imagine it happening to you," Melissa told POPSUGAR. "I actually remember thinking to myself, This must not be actual breast cancer. It's probably something else. It was nearly impossible for my mind to process everything in that moment."
With time, Melissa learned that life doesn't have to completely stop when you undergo treatment. "Losing your hair and your breasts can seem like the most defeminizing chapter of your life, but it doesn't have to be," she said. "There are fabulous wigs out there. Your hair grows back. There are many options when it comes to breast reconstruction and incredible products like post-mastectomy bras from AnaOno Intimates." With so many resources available, she emphasized that it's important to advocate for yourself throughout the process. "Ask questions," said Melissa, now 48. "For example, if you choose to reconstruct your breasts, there are many different types of implants out there. If you're considering reconstruction from the start, be sure to speak to both your breast surgeon and your plastic surgeon about it because it's truly a team effort."